New Wave Sewing – a maxi dress pattern from 1981

Continuing on through my vintage pledge goals I have finally reached a favorite time period for music and fashion, the early 80s. Bowie was still going strong, Duran Duran was just beginning and I was just barely starting to become aware of the radio. It doesn’t seem like 1981 would be vintage but that was 35 years ago. Yikes.

IMG_0229I love maxi dresses. Being short, I can rarely find them off the rack. Simplicity 9562 has a short view and a maxi view. It can look totally 80s or timeless depending on fabric and accessorizing. It also has nice big patch pockets. I was pretty stoked to make this one!

Since I was attending an “undead” luau I thought that some sugar skull fabric from my stash would be perfect to use. I again used pretty much all of the fabric and only had scraps left. I kind of love when that happens as I really have no idea what to do with fat quarters and such. I’ve been saving my decent sized scraps to give to a friend’s daughter. I’m glad they have a good home that isn’t mine.


My mock up was pretty spot on. I thought it was just a touch tight though so I just cut more generously. As it turns out, I maybe didn’t need to do that. The cotton I used for the mockup was left over from my uncle’s tiki shirt. It doesn’t have much give or softness which may have made the mockup seem somewhat tight. It’s not like adding a little extra “hurt” anything though.


I decided to use actual topstitching thread to do the topstitching details. With the large and busy motifs, I didn’t think anything else would really show up. Some of the top stitching turned out really great but some was a bit sloppy for my taste. I used a new topstitching needle so the only thing I can figure is that my machine handled the layers of fabric differently. There was some variation — some topstitching was just two layers of cotton. Some was fabric and bias tape. The machine just may not have liked the situations equally. It’s something that bugs me more than I think anyone else will notice. When one part turns out so perfect it’s annoying when the next part doesn’t.


IMG_0390This dress is super comfy to wear, especially when it’s humid and hot. I also wore it flying home from my recent trip to the UK. Beside being sweaty and ill, I still managed to look halfway decent in this dress. I’m already itching to sew another. It went over well at the luau too!


With this make I’ve done four of my five pattern pledges. I still need to make a piece with vintage fabric and I also have more UFOs that need some love. Not bad for halfway through the year!

As much as I want to make another dress from 9562, I need to switch gears back to Regency to get ready for Costume College. I also need to chill out on my new Pokemon Go obsession and stay inside at the sewing machine. Gotta catch and sew them all!


Atomic! – Vintage Simplicity 4777 from 1963

atomic pattern

My latest for the Vintage Pledge is view 2 of Simplicity 4777 from 1963. I’m a sucker for Mad Men style so I was pretty hyped about giving this a go. When looking for fabric to do a mockup I decided to use some of my yardage of Michael Miller’s Mid-Century Modern Atomic. I was able to get this fabric super cheap but it was all in cuts ranging from 1 to less than 2 yards. I had about 7 or so yards total. I checked my longest pieces and made sure they were long enough to cut the skirt. I figured that if the mockup worked, I could go ahead and complete the piece. If not, well I had a really pretty mockup and more fabric for other really pretty mockups. The atomic fabric fit the age of the pattern albeit just barely — generally 1965 is the cutoff for mid-century modern.

IMG_0108The bodice mockup seemed to go very well. Since this is a half size pattern I didn’t expect significant sizing issues. The sewing was straight forward although I needed to make sure that I didn’t get my shoulder darts too pointy. They are a bit square in the photo above. I had concerns that the bodice looked a bit frumpy or mumsy despite the spectacular fabric. The fit was good enough that I moved on and cut the skirt to finish the dress.

atomic progressIt looks fab on the much smaller dress form! Didn’t look as fab when I put it on though. The waist seemed too low. I measured against the bodice of another favorite dress and sure enough the atomic bodice was over an inch longer. I removed the skirt and shortened the bodice. That helped a lot. It also helped mitigate some of the problems I was having in the back. I probably could have considered a swayback adjustment but I was too far along by that point. I did kind of a half assed (heh) fix by adjusting the back waist seam.

I was kind of stumped for buttons. I had two great ones in my stash but not enough of either to finish the dress. I had trouble finding something I liked but I ended up with these.

atomic white buttons

Honestly, neither button is ideal. I decided to go for the ones on the left.

white button atomic

As cute as the buttons were, they were just wrong. They got totally lost in the bold print and also looked a bit too small despite being what the pattern called for. When cutting, I made no adjustments to the hips despite the pattern being smaller than my measures. In the past, the fullness of the skirts has covered this but it didn’t quite work here. I would definitely do a little scaling if I remake this pattern. I fit, but I think the dress needs more fullness to get closer to the pattern drawing. I sewed the cuffs but as they are not contrast, they are hard to see. Finally, I just don’t own a proper belt for this dress. I was not feeling it.


Making the switch to big black statement buttons and ditching belt did the trick. As I had already made the button holes I looked for the biggest, blackest buttons that would fit! I thought that this dress would require a belt. It might look better if I found the proper one, but a belt is not required.

atomic matchy purse

I threw on a vintage black enamel flower pin just to see. It was either my mom’s or my grandma’s — my mom couldn’t remember! I still see things to be tweaked but those big buttons pretty much saved this dress for me.

I don’t know if I will make this pattern again. I had planned on using it with some other, more precious fabric but I’ve opted against that. 4777 may not be the greatest for giant, in your face, prints. Still, there’s a part of me that wants to perfect this pattern so who knows.


I haven’t had a chance to properly wear the atomic dress on an outing. I did however, find a nice matchy handbag at Charming Charlie.


Turned out so nice, I made it twice!


Since that Tiki Blouse from Simplicity Retro turned out so well, I decided to make it again. I quacked it out of another small piece of fabric — polka dotted duck lawn that I bought in Montmartre a couple of years ago. This fabric is lighter weight than the tiki fabric and was very nice to work with. I did some googling looking for other similar fabrics but what little I found was on French websites. I wonder if this is Japanese fabric made specifically for the French market? Hmmm.


I had to do some crazy folding to get the pieces to fit. Good thing the fabric was wider than 44 / 45″. I wonder if it was a metric standard?

I made the adjustments I considered after finishing the Tiki blouse. I cut the neckline and shoulders at a 20 instead of a 22. I also omitted the side zipper since it goes easily over my head. This blouse could look very nice with a peter pan collar instead of the keyhole and pussy bow. Perhaps an idea for the future.


With that complete, I moved on to sewing a mockup of vintage Simplicity 4777 from 1963. I’m a real sucker for raglan sleeves. I was able to buy several 1 to 1 1/2 yard cuts of Michael Miller Atomic fabric. A test of this pattern seemed like a good use for it.


I’m generally pleased with the bodice mockup, small details not withstanding. This is definitely another dress for a pointy bra — not surprising really, being from from 1963. I’m a bit concerned it could end up being a little frumpy. I’ll go ahead and finish this to find out.


A funny thing about that vintage Simplicity pattern

A common complaint about Big 4 repro patterns is that while they use the original pattern illustrations, the patterns themselves are often noticeably altered from their original release. This creates, at the very least, confusion when the finished garment ends up not looking like what was supposedly on offer.

Here’s a little discovery — not just repros that have this problem!

You may remember my last post about my adventures with Simplicity 3010 from 1959.


I pulled this pattern out last year intending to make a dress for Halloween. I found a really fun bat motif lace at Joann. I thought it would be super fun as an overlay. It was too late though. Halloween came and went and the lace went into the stash.

The illustration for View 1 is clearly drawn strapless with a lace overlay. But, as I discovered when I actually made this pattern, there are no pieces or instructions to actually make the dress as illustrated. There is a mention of using net or marquisette (The Dreamstress explains marquisette here) for the facings if you choose to make the dress from lace but that’s it. There is nothing about lining the bodice in the manner illustrated or attaching an overlay skirt. The fact that View 1 is shown without pockets probably has to do with it being impractical for a dress overlay. I suppose perhaps it was assumed that a 1959 sewist would just know how to get this done? I can’t see that a 1959 lady was going to wear a lace dress without a lining. It boggles a bit.

I have my own ideas on how I would recreate that illustration. I’d flatline the lace before putting in the darts. I wouldn’t make it strapless either so I could wear a regular bra. It’s a really cute drawing but it doesn’t make sense. The architecture to support a strapless style bodice isn’t present in the pattern. Tsk tsk Simplicity!

Two dresses from 1959’s Simplicity 3010

Behold, the first official make of the “sew five different vintage (not repro) patterns” part of my Vintage Pledge, an Easter Dress from Simplicity 3010, circa 1959.


I found this amazing Japanese fabric from the Joli Pomme collection for $7 a yard last year. Super score! A dress to wear for Easter dinner seemed like the perfect thing!


I thought the scallops would compliment the round and glitter dots. Also, that the pattern was just a little bit fussy to match the fancy rabbits and friends in all their bonnets.

I have been loving working with vintage half sized patterns. They are scaled for short busty women like me. Sadly though, this pattern is straight sized. On the first mockup, the bodice had all the typical problems that I tend to have with modern patterns — too big / wide at the shoulder, neck and above the bust. I briefly considered trying to adjust the 3010 bodice but then I decided to make my life easier and I frankenpatterned.

My current favorite vintage pattern, Simplicity 1577, also has a kimono sleeve bodice. I have this pattern in a half size and the fit is excellent. I opted to trace 1577 and modify it with the neckline of 3010. I changed the double waist darts of 1577 to the single waist dart of 3010. I also made small changes to the neckline facings to work with the slightly different shoulder of 1577.

I did a second bodice mockup based on “my creation”. Heh. Even though I was planning on the neckline from view 2, I did the mockup with view 1. I figured it would be faster to sew. That logic was a little faulty since I didn’t plan on actually finishing the neckline on the mockup.


Not only did the 2nd mock fit, but the fabric folding gods must have been with me because my motifs were perfectly placed on both the front and back pieces. While I really liked this fabric, I opted to use it for a mockup because I didn’t have a ton of it.

With that mischief managed, it was on with the Easter dress!

Because of the neckline, I was forced to use the dreaded facings. Trimming those scallops so close to get them to turn properly really made me nervous.  Those scallops need more starch!


The hand of the Joli Pomme fabric is really lovely. I think it can be over handled however. The bodice ended up being a little big when I was finally done with it. I may have pulled the fabric a bit much when ironing and wrangling the scallops into place. I assume once it is washed that will change or I can take in in a bit. I used all the original skirt and pocket pieces from 3010. The pockets want to collapse a bit but the scallop detail is so cute.


(You might recognize this bathroom from my Tiki Blouse selfie)

Since my vase mockup was so spot on and featured the view 1 neckline, I decided to go ahead and finish it. I used Kona cotton in a kind of a funny gray with an almost green tint. Honestly, it’s kind of a weird color but it was by far the best match to the swatch.


I’m a little wrinkly, but here I am in the completed view 1. I did a 3 inch turn up on the hem. It came out kind of lumpy so I’m going to trim it down and do a standard roll. I fully lined my pockets too.

This dress seemed perfect to wear during the grand re-opening of the Currey & Company showroom in High Point, NC. Currey & Company just completed a 4,400 foot expansion and total remodel of their showroom. It’s gorgeous and has been a huge project. So proud of everyone and glad I was able to be a part of the celebration.


New Sew: Tiki Blouse

After seeing other sewists’ super cute results posted all over Facebook, I had to dig out my copy of Simplicity Retro 2154 and give it a go.


I’d been a little hesitant to sew this blouse, although that’s basically the only reason I bought the pattern. I wasn’t sure how that collar and pussy bow would look with my big ole titties. Per the photo below, I think it looks great!


I opted to cut a 22 above the bust and a 24 below. I shortened the pieces on the “petite” line — yes, it says that on the pattern. I had my standard problems of being narrow shouldered in a pattern that assumes otherwise in larger sizes. I took up the shoulder a bit. In future, I would shorten the shoulder even further, possibly cutting the size 20. The back of the neckline also seemed awfully high so I might look into adjusting that also. Finally I don’t think a sleeveless blouse should have the armhole extending beyond point of shoulder so that would also need a modification. I opted to finish everything with bias tape versus facings. Had I finished the armhole with facings I might have ended up with a wider seam allowance which would have fixed the point of shoulder issue. Since, I hate facings with a passion, I can just trim that part instead. I suppose I could tighten the fit overall by nipping the waist a bit more, but I don’t think it’s a huge problem that needs correction.


Construction on this blouse goes fairly fast. The basic shape is straight forward. The collar and bow, while fussy, are not difficult. Since this was a test garment I did not interface the collar. The roll of the collar wanted to collapse a bit, so I think in future, light interfacing as suggested would be wise. Due to the nature of the construction, the bow is sewn down and can not be removed before washing. I’m curious what kind of mess that will be to iron after washing.

The fabric was a small piece that I got at my favorite weirdo fabric wonderland. I maybe had 1.5 yards?  It was definitely less than the pattern called for. I squeezed the collar and bow pieces by ignoring the grainlines. I definitely wouldn’t have had enough fabric for facings so it’s a good thing I hate them.

I’ve become a little obsessed recently with proper underpinnings. This is something that is standard for me with “historical” fashion but I hadn’t actually given it that much thought for retro garments. I did a little experiment to see how different bras would look under this blouse.


On Left: “pointy” old fashioned bra                                       On Right: modern plunge bra

To my eyes, the pointy bra gives a much better look. Beyond being true to the era, the pointy bra puts everything in the correct place so the bust darts are exactly where they are supposed to be. While there is nothing wrong per se with the modern bra, seeing them side by side, the round modern bra shape just isn’t ideal. The fit issue at the shoulder seems more obvious, probably because the bust placement is changing the slope of the upper part of the bodice. The lower line of the modern bra sits closer to the body, affecting the drape of the blouse below the bust. Consequently I look perkier and thinner in the pointy bra. It might not be right for a tissue tee but the pointy bra is the winner for this blouse.


I finished sewing my blouse at the 11th hour, right before I was off to a party. My friends are serious about their tiki culture and cocktails. Look at this amazing and delicious Coronado Luau Special they made for me! It even had a handmade umbrella / lantern pick. Clearly I made the perfect blouse for the occasion.

You also might have noticed my other new fashion statement. My hair is pink! It’s had elements of pink before but it’s never been all pink. It’s so fun! I’m still a little surprised when I look in the mirror but I definitely love it.


Happy Valentines Day with Simplicity 5556!

One of my 2016 Vintage Pledge goals was to finish all of my Vintage Pledge UFOs from 2015. This includes both half sewn garments and ones that only managed to be cut. So behold, my first vintage sew of 2016: a better fitting version of Simplicity 5556 from 1973 — with hearts, for Valentine’s Day, or something!

70s heart dress on form

I cut this out about this time last year after I had made a first run with this pattern. The fabric is a lightweight sweater knit from Fashion Fabrics Club. My copy of this pattern has two printed sizes. This time around I cut the smaller size for the top and graded out to the larger size starting at the waist. It fits a lot better but is still a little too big in the shoulders / bust. I’ve also changed in the upper body (thanks to working out with a trainer 2x a week since July 2015) so that also has to be factored in. I did the majority of the stitching on the overlocker. Because of that I probably didn’t take the full 5/8 inch seam allowance. I’d make that change before I would consider cutting it even smaller.

70s heart dress CU

The pattern calls for finishing the neckline with facings. Ugh, what is it with the facings? While I know I have leftovers of this fabric, they were separated from the cut pattern pieces. I decided to just go ahead and use the facings but not exactly as the pattern suggested. I sewed the facing on with the serger and turned it. When I made the turn I wrapped the facing over the allowance made by the overlock stitching forming a sort of makeshift binding. I topstitched the facing down and then trimmed it down with my appliqué scissors. I got a little over zealous with the trimming and ended up cutting a couple of small holes which I then had to mend. I did a pretty good job dealing with the stripes. I was really befuddled with the hem. My side seam stripes pretty much lined up so I thought that I could just hem straight across but no, that was not working. Maybe it had to do with the bust darts? I don’t know. Good thing that I had to cut off three or four inches anyway.

70s heart dress 1

Accessorized with heart earrings, a vintage scarf and boots from Modcloth.

I did the sewing of the dress on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday and wore it out to two (!) different Super Bowl Parties. I even managed to show up to the 1st one before half time. That’s kind of an accomplishment for me. I didn’t even know who was playing. I don’t think I’m “too cool” for football. Actually, if you held me down and forced me to pick a sport to watch, I’d pick football. But, it’s just not a thing I get into unless Chicago or Atlanta is involved.

I had a couple of people ask me where I got my dress. Once I replied that I made it, but another time I said “Off my sewing machine”. I thought I was being all witty!

I’m going to keep playing with this pattern. I like it a lot and I think it can be refined just a little more. Simplicity 5556 also includes the ubiquitous tunic & pantsuit version which I am kind of interested in trying just for funsies.

IMG_9649As far as the actual Valentine’s Day, I’ve had a lovely one. My husband just returned from three weeks in Asia. He made me this awesome card and got me a really fabulous and hilarious gift that I will have to show you in a different post. The soot sprites are pins that I can wear! And soon I will have a delicious steak to eat. He’s a fabulous chef.

I hope you all had nice Valentines too.



More Adventures With Vintage Patterns: 1976 Flannel Tunic

I’ve really been enjoying the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. It’s really fun to work with the old patterns and it’s certainly helped my shopping needs as I’ve been searching the internet for vintage patterns that I don’t have to resize or resize significantly.

For my 3rd make I decided to take a look in my file cabinet and see if I could find something to sew from the family archives aka my mom’s old sewing patterns. The bad news is that most of the older patterns I took from her are not close to my size. In addition to being much skinnier than me when she was at the height of her sewing career, we do not have the same build. I am an hourglass with the wide hips of my Nana. Tangentially, I was also looking for a pattern to make a flannel shirt. I had 5 yards of flannel that I bought when I was considering making my OctoRobe reversible (which would have been a horrible, heavy and hot as hell garment). Enter Simplicity 7446 from 1976.

Check out View 1 popping’ her collar!

My mom made View 2 from this pattern but View 1 was still uncut. I’d love to find a photo of her wearing the tunic but I don’t know if it exists or if she could find it soon anyway (as she is moving in just a couple of weeks). Based on the pattern envelope measures, the pattern was just a bit too small. I graded it on the fly as I cut my fabric. Having the tunic finished, I probably didn’t need to grade the bust (or only needed to grade it a little) but I would need to increase the hip more significantly. Yes, the hip fits, but I’d like it bigger than it is. I don’t really prefer the gut enhancing silhouette.

Did I use a yellow filter on all these images? Of course I did!

Is the garment a success? Well, kind of? I think the tunic is really fun and super duper 70s. I mean, check out the serious collar action!

I just happened to be wearing that groovy Fossil necklace.

But I don’t exactly like how it fits. Some of that is my grading, but some of it is the pattern. The neckline is awfully low on me. I think the fit is exacerbated the stiffness of the flannel. That may improve after I wash the garment. I know — I’m not always so great about pre-washing my fabric. I’d be willing to try View 1 again in a gauzy fabric and with the pockets omitted. I’d also give View 2 a shot. I wouldn’t do either with any fabric I was really invested. I’m not sure if I will get much wear from this tunic.  I could see it as a fun shirt to throw on after yoga or something. But it’s way too hella warm for springtime in Atlanta.

The other big thing about this make — it was the first project I started (I actually completed another vintage dress in the middle of this project) on my new precious, my Bernina 710!

Top Stitching with the Bernina 710

With all the top stitching and fussy bits, this was perfect to put the machine through some paces. I’ve been considering a new machine for quite a while. My last significant sewing machine purchase was a Pfaff that proved to be a completely maddening lemon. I’ve been sewing on a very basic non-digital Brother for several years. I did a bit of sewing recently on a friend’s Bernina. She’d been singing their praises to me but it took actually using hers to really get me fired up about them. I got my machine as a demo from the quilt show that just happened in town. I got significant deal on it and it is barely used. I’m thrilled. It will raise the presser foot for you and cut your thread. It’s made of magic.